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Fair Trade Roundup: What is Hershey Up to NOW?!

17th August, 2011 - Posted by Tex Dworkin - 3 Comments

Time for another Fair Trade Roundup…your healthy dose of Fair Trade news.

Photo Credit: JOHN C. WHITEHEAD, The Patriot-News


Last week the Raise the Bar Hershey campaign urged consumers to take action on Hershey’s Facebook page to support the campaign that is calling on Hershey to go Fair Trade. As the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign explains:

Hershey is America’s favorite chocolate brand, accounting for 42.5% of the US market. Yet, inside almost every Hershey chocolate product is the bitter truth that the cocoa used to produce the chocolate may very well have been produced under harmful conditions, including forced labor, human trafficking, and abusive child labor.

Since at least 2001, the Hershey Company has been aware of the problems that exist at the start of its supply chain, yet it continues to source from this region without ensuring that labor rights abuses do not occur in the production of the cocoa it uses.

That was last week. This week there have been more labor abuse accusations made against Hershey, this one from the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). Earlier today John Fitzgerald from Penn State USAS sent the following announcement:

Today, guestworkers and local workers staged a sit-in at a Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania to protest the disturbing exploitation of student guestworkers and demand living wage jobs for local workers. USAS activists will join Pennsylvania workers with a delegation to the factory soon, but right now we’re asking you to take action to support the guestworkers.

Watch the video National Guestworker Alliance’s video here:

USAS was alerted to human rights abuses of international workers in the United States. This summer, hundreds of students from around the world each paid $3,000-6,000 for what they thought was a cultural exchange program. What they were actually greeted with were chocolate packing jobs at sweatshop conditions, poverty pay, severe pain, no cultural experience, and virtually no chance to make back the money they paid for the program. All this is going on at a Hershey Chocolate factory at Hershey, PA, in Penn State’s backyard. Hershey Chocolate is exploiting international student labor instead of bringing much-needed jobs to Pennsylvanian families.

Take Action: Click here to e-mail Hershey’s CEO John Bilbrey and demand an end to the exploitation of student guestworkers, and/or call his office at 717-534-4200.

Photo Credit: Fair Trade USA


Check out the report pdfs here:



WPRI Eyewitness News had an interesting segment about Fair Trade. They did their best to inform consumers about the complexities of Fair Trade product labeling. You can watch it here:



3 Responses to “Fair Trade Roundup: What is Hershey Up to NOW?!”

  • Mark

    You have a few of the facts wrong according to the news reports. Accuracy is really important if you want to be seen as credible. The students are working at a warehouse managed by a subcontractor, not Hershey…and the subcontractor hires subcontracted labor. Hershey should be actively ensuring good labor practices though.

    The students are making minimum wage (which IS a poverty wage as we know, though legal in the US) but they’re staying in housing owned by some company that’s involved, so housing costs are deducted from pay (like many migrant workers).

    The students are in the J1 Visa program, which is clearly identified as a work/cultural exchange program but they’re recruited by third parties who may well glorify and misrepresent the opportunity.

    On another note, many Americans are working alongside them in these low-paying, difficult jobs. It’s important to stand up for those workers, too, so let’s not forget them.

    • Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are correct in that these guestworkers are working in a warehouse operated by a third party (Exel which provides logistical services to businesses like Hershey.) But the bottom line is, Hershey is benefiting from this labor and has been made aware of the situation so it is on Hershey to right this.

      Justifying the poor treatment of workers by outsourcing the blame to sub-contractors is an all too common tactic practiced by corporations looking to avoid responsibility for its labor abuse practices. Businesses aware of labor abuses should respond swiftly and appropriately to ensure that the abuses cease, whether it’s happening at a sub-contractor’s factory or not. Blaming a third party for glorifying or misrepresenting the work opportunity is unacceptable, since it is Hershey that benefits from this labor.

      Regarding the misrepresentation by those in charge of the cultural worker exchange, if the labor force was obtained through misrepresentation then Hershey should take responsibility to right that situation as well, since it is the benefactor of this labor. The student protestors asked for refund and change in Hershey policies. You can find out more about what the foreign students and the AFL-CIO union members are demanding of Hershey here:

      Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts and raising this important distinction about sub-contracting.

  • Hershey protest made Yahoo! News. In it Hershey spokesperson publicly comments on the protest.

    “Foreign students walk off Hershey’s factory job in protest” (

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